Connecting Millennials with Their Cuban Heritage One Flight to Havana at a Time

CubaOne trip participants sunset at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba.
CubaOne trip participants sunset at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba.

After learning about the Birthright Israel trips many young Jewish-Americans make as a right of passage into adulthood, Daniel Jimenez wondered, why not something for his Cuban-American peers?

Jimenez joined me recently to talk about his experience with CubaOne. > Listen to our conversation here.

With US-Cuba relations warming, Jimenez and and three like-minded partners decided to take the leap and are doing just that. They’ve started a foundation called CubaOne that’s taking young Cuban-Americans on trips back to their homeland in Cuba.

With 1.7 Million Cuban-Americans in the United States, Jimenez is dreaming big. He wants “to take every Cuban-American who would like to reconnect with their heritage, on a trip to Cuba.”

Doing It On the Side

Jimenez says that he and his partners are building and running CubaOne “like a start-up”. Each of them has a specialty area, like marketing or handling the legal side of things, and the team approach is one of the ways that they are able to build the foundation and plan the trips, in addition to their day jobs.

Working on CubaOne is “my passion... it doesn’t feel like it’s taking up time, it’s freeing time up”. - Daniel Jimenez

More Selective Than Harvard

The first trip to Cuba took place this past summer, and they have two more planned this year. And these are not simple tourist trips either.

On the trips participants see the sights and experience their Cuban culture first hand, but they also visit with long-lost family, and spend time meeting with Cuban peers who are doing things like building apps and producing artisan goods.

From left: Daniel Jimenez, Idania del Rio, co founder of Clandestina, a privately owned design store in Habana Vieja, Cherie
From left: Daniel Jimenez, Idania del Rio, co founder of Clandestina, a privately owned design store in Habana Vieja, Cherie Cancio co-founder of CubaOne

Part of the selection process is identifying participants who want to come back to the US and share about their experience, and many have through their writing, art and other avenues.

Out of 1,300 applications, Jimenez and his partners hand-selected 10 participants for the first trip. They’re more selective than Harvard!

From left: Idania del Rio,  Daniel Cohen (participant), Miranda Hernandez (participant), staffer at Clandestina,  Michelle Al
From left: Idania del Rio, Daniel Cohen (participant), Miranda Hernandez (participant), staffer at Clandestina, Michelle Alfonso (participant), Daniel Jimenez, Fontaine Capel (participant)

What’s Coming Next

Jimenez and his three partners are currently bootstrapping the trips. As it costs $2,500 to send one participant to Cuba, they are actively seeking donations big and small, and welcome inquiries for corporate partnerships.

Learn more or donate to support CubaOne.

Vanessa Soto is a marketing exec, life coach, mom of a teenager and founder of The Side Passion Project. By weekday she develops digital advertising campaigns for a Fortune 500 company and by weekend she produces the Doing It On the Side podcast. Whether you already have a side project, or are looking to find yours, subscribe to the Doing It On the Side podcast and you’ll be off to a great start.

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